Coronavirus lockdowns are reinforcing gender inequality

“We are the losers in this crisis.”

Sadly unsurprising, but still anger-making. Being child-free, I’ve mostly been enjoying working from home – but if this *is* going to be the new normal, we urgently need to find ways to make homeworking work for everyone.

This shift away from the office could and should have been a fantastic opportunity to break down barriers to employment for people who have previously struggled to participate in the traditional office-based nine to five – whether due to caring commitments, location, disability, or simple hiring prejudice.

We 100% cannot afford to allow it to reinforce structural inequality or outdated stereotypes.

The upside of lockdown

Cut to the chase about halfway down, and the potential benefits of remote working on company culture and productivity here are pretty accurate, based on my experience of working in a globally distributed team at Microsoft and as a freelancer back in the day.

These benefits don’t just happen by magic, though – it takes concerted effort to transition to and encourage new ways of working, and some people will find this shift harder than others. They’ll need support, and we’ll all have a responsibility to help our colleagues make the switch if this is going to work.

They say it takes 60 days to form new habits… Will the lockdowns so many of us are experiencing last long enough for these new ways of working to bed in to our working culture? And when we do finally return to work properly, will we be able to bring their benefits back with us?

Chris Rock, pandemic philosopher

Surprising wisdom from Chris Rock, which seems particularly pertinent as we reluctantly go into social distancing / self-isolation mode:

“Naive people will tell you, ‘There’s always tomorrow and you’ll always get another chance.’ The smart people will tell you, ‘You probably get three chances at anything in life, and you’ll probably be busy for the first two chances. When you get that third one you better be f—ing ready.'”

There’s going to be a bunch of missed chances over the next few weeks. But we’ll also all have plenty of time to prepare for future ones: Time to read that book, take that online course, learn that skill, do those push-ups, and generally get ready for that next chance once life returns to normal.

(More clichéd LinkedIn style than my usual posts, this – but years of life as a freelancer taught me the importance of maintaining a positive mindset and future-focus when working from home. Get a constructive hobby, and make the most of the extra time saved by not commuting to pick up new knowledge and skills. It’s a major benefit, used well.)

Why user personas need to be more complex and inclusive

Inclusive user personasI’m not a fan of user personas. They’re meant to remind us of alternative perspectives, but tend to become either so specific as to make us blinkered, or so single-minded as to be unrealistic.

This piece does a good job of summarising how this fallacy of assuming we can identify user archetypes came about, how it misses so much vital nuance and complexity, and why we need to shake it off if we’re ever going to meet the needs of real users via a more effective, inclusive design approach to developing a better customer experience.